Will Aphonso Thomas be the next big running back to come out of Stephen F. Austin?

He has the opportunity. The Lumberjacks reached out to the rising senior Van running back Monday with an invitation to join the program after graduation, according to an announcement via Twitter from Thomas.

Stephen F. Austin enjoyed a strong 2014 season with former Gilmer star Gus Johnson leading the way at running back. Johnson rushed for 1,683 yards and 23 touchdowns during his senior year to help guide the program to the FCS playoffs.

The three-time All-Southland Conference selection could play on Sundays for his efforts. The Oakland Raiders signed and subsequently waived Johnson after the NFL Draft, but other teams appear interested in trying out the Lumberjacks' standout.

Thomas is a similarly sized back. He checked into the ETSN.fm + APEC Football Recruiting Combine presented by Azalea Orthopedics at a verified 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds.

Van's star, who also holds offers from Texas State, Colorado State, Kansas and Nebraska, left the event with a verbal honorable mention after tying for ninth in the 185-pound bench press event with 14 reps and a top 10 finish among all invited prospects with an output of 3,580 watts on the Keiser squat machine.

Thomas also impressed with his speed.

He recorded a 40-yard dash time of 4.71 seconds and second pro agility time of 4.41 seconds. Both events were laser-timed.

Stephen F. Austin will have to get creative to land the prospect in favor of four FBS schools, but it does have selling points beyond its success with Johnson.

The FCS playoff appearance last season was its first since 2010 and it came under first-year head coach Clint Conque.

The Lumberjacks also pulled in a 2015 signing class featuring two East Texas peers in Tatum linebacker Kyshaun Smith and Arp running back Marcalas Johnson. More former local players will join the team as preferred walk-ons.

Maybe most importantly, Stephen F. Austin is located 110 miles from Thomas' home. That's more than 150 miles closer than the running back would have to travel the next nearest interested school.

Thomas rushed for 934 yards and 12 touchdowns on 106 carries last season and is Van’s top returning offensive skill player. Fellow running back Matt Savis — a Southeastern Oklahoma State signee — and a very good passing game unit have been lost to graduation.

He will become eligible to sign with any program that offers him on Feb. 3.